Fox River Harvest
St. Joseph�s Orphanage overlooks the Fox River where two men reap and bind grain on the west side, ca 1885. What is now an industrial area with factories, such as Georgia-Pacific, lining the river was once largely agricultural. Industry was located both north and south of the site shown in the photograph. Traditionally, reaping, or the cutting of grain, was done by hand with a scythe and required two people to cut and bind the stalks before they were dried. A worker could cut about 0.3 acres in a day, resulting in about two pounds of grain after threshing. As people migrated further west, labor shortages spurred the invention of reaping machines that could speed the harvest by using fewer workers. There were several models of reaper used, but the�McCormick Harvester and Binder of 1876, shown here, was one of the most popular. The machine consisted of a series of rakes that would rotate and move cut grain stalks to the side of the machine, cutting about five acres per day. It was also the first self-binder, resulting in sales of 50,000 machines between 1877 and 1885, becoming one of the most widely used machines in the United States.